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New study shows car exhaust threatens survival of honeybees

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Most of us are aware that car exhaust fumes contain chemicals including carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides and hydrocarbons that can be lethal to humans and cause damage to the environment. While many associate car exhaust fume deaths with suicide, accidental car exhaust fumes deaths happen all too often.

Indeed, earlier this year an 11-year-old Massachusetts boy died from car exhaust fumes as he was sitting in a car trying to keep warm while his father shoveled snow. Chemicals in car exhaust fumes can cause brain damage, respiratory distress, and other serious health problems.

Furthermore, the government has long understood the damaging effects that car exhaust fumes have on the environment. Indeed, in 1990 Congress passed amendments to the Federal Clean Air Act, requiring cars in certain areas of the country to pass emissions tests in an effort to maintain an acceptable air quality level. However, a recent study shows that these fumes have a negative impact on the environment in a way not previously known.

Affect on Honeybees
Scientists in the United Kingdom recently completed a study that found that car exhaust fumes can be extremely damaging to honeybees. Honeybees rely on floral aromas to locate flower blossoms. They extract nectar and pollen from the blossoms and take it back to their hives to use as nutrition. This is a naturally easy task for bees to complete when the air is relatively free of pollutants.

However, it becomes problematic when the air is compromised by vehicle emission fumes. These fumes change the chemical composition of the floral aromas, or eliminate them altogether. As a result, honeybees find it difficult to locate blossoms that they must have in order to survive.

Researchers speculate that the nitric oxide and nitrogen dioxide found in car exhaust fumes are the main problem. When these chemicals were mixed with florals, researchers found that the chemical reaction was immediate.

When bees were then exposed to the mixture of floral scents and nitrogen compounds, they did not recognize the florals at all. If significant numbers of honeybees have trouble finding nectar and pollen, their population will surely decrease.

Affect on People

Pollination is an important part of farming. Pollination is the transfer of pollen from the male part of a flower to the female part of a flower to form a seed. Many crops such as cucumbers, peaches, pumpkins, squash and cherries are pollinated by honeybees.

Still other crops' yields may be improved by honeybees. To put this in financial terms, some estimate that the annual financial contribution of insects to farming is about $127 billion worldwide.

Any significant decline in the honeybee population will have a deleterious effect on many crops. This will cause a decline in revenue to farmers and a rise in food prices. It will also alter the availability of some very nutritious foods.

Clearly car exhaust fumes present an even greater problem than once believed. With the new evidence of the affect on honeybees and potential impact on farming, should the Environmental Protection Agency consider additional restrictions on car emissions in an effort to minimize the negative impact on the honeybee population before the problem becomes more serious?

About the author:

Andrew Mounier is a passionate member of the End Ecocide movement, an avid legal blogger, author and Content Engineer.

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